Television Nostalgia – Music & The X-Files – My favourite Mark Snow music from the series
I’ve very much been in a nostalgic mood recently and no finer example of this is my revisiting of my favourite television series, returning with six new episodes in January 2016. I’ve already discussed on this blog why I loved the show so much and my favourite episodes, as well as talking about my most memorable moments between, in my opinion, the greatest TV partnership. Something else that has been very obvious during my recent viewings of the series is the power and importance of the musical score of The X-Files.
Written throughout the series and the two films by composer Mark Snow, it has a very distinct sound, which became ingrained in the fabric of the series and also a vital part of its atmosphere, tone and mood. The series was always meant to be a little out there and needed to have music which matched its various tones – whether myth arc conspiracies, creepy monsters of the week or more emotional, personal stories centring on the lives of the characters we had grown to know so well. Mark Snow scores all of this brilliantly.
Recently his music has been able to be appreciated all over again by X-Philes with the release of two volumes (4 CDs in each) of his wonderful music from the series by La La Records, each selling out very quickly (although you can still locate copies on the web if you keep looking). A re-release of the score to the first film is however still available (see the link at the end to buy). It’s been fantastic to listen to the music on its own and realise just how much certain moments in the series are linked to the music that accompanied them.
Fans are already chatting about what music they’d like to see in a further third volume (come on La La Records, you know you want to!) and it’s made me consider which musical score moments from 202 episodes and 2 films have stood out for me. So, as we await those new stories and new music from Mark to accompany them, here are my favourite pieces of Mark Snow’s X-Files score. I’d love to hear what other fans have on their lists and what they would love to hear on a third CD volume if we are lucky enough to get one.
1. Ending from Jose Chung’s From Outer Space (series 3)
This is a fairly surreal episode by fan favourite Darin Morgan (hard to believe he only actually wrote four episodes!), but more than anything I love the music written for the final few minutes. It’s a genuinely beautiful piece of music, which is able to be both melancholy and hopeful at the same time. This is a very distinctive musical piece from the series and it’s no surprise it was included on the first volume of music released.
2. Scully remembers her sister in Piper Maru (series 3)
This is only a short music cue from Piper Maru, but it’s always been one that I’ve remembered and I was thrilled to see it included on volume 1 (within the track “Back In The Hood”). As Scully returns to the naval base she grew up on, we see her remember happy childhood times playing hopscotch with her sister. With Melissa’s death still very recent, this moment is very touching and this cue from Mark Snow truly adds to the emotional depth of the scene.
3. Dark revelations in Grotesque (series 3)
Grotesque is one of the series’s most chilling episodes and required a darker, more disturbing musical background to enhance the atmosphere we were seeing on screen. Mark’s loud, intense score, heavy on the piano and its relentless pounding is absolutely perfect to depict the frightening events of the story as the viewers start to worry that Mulder may have truly fallen over the edge of sanity.
4. Home Again (I Want To Believe)
Although it disappointed me in many ways, the music for the second film I Want To Believe was not one of them and Mark Snow proved that years later he was still perfect at capturing the magic of Mulder and Scully (and indeed David and Gillian) on screen. The stand out piece for me has to be what is effectively their love theme from the film, captured in “Home Again.” It’s a beautiful piece of music, full of love and emotion and marks this deeper connection now shared between them.
5. On a bridge between life and death for Scully in One Breath (series 2)
One Breath was bound to be in here somewhere as it’s my favourite episode and it’s another which highlights the variety of music needed over the course of the series. Unlike darker, moodier music such as for Grotesque, the music for One Breath needed to be more delicate, in order to reflect Scully’s fragile life and how close she was to death. Mark Snow’s score is very touching and feels, in parts, rather spiritual and I particularly love the music chosen for scenes in which Scully sits in her boat, which at any point could be set adrift. Thankfully volume 1 of the CD collection has captured this score in both “Reanimation” and “Guardian Angel”.
6. Unwavering love and friendship in Momento Mori (series 4)
Momento Mori is one of those episodes that always manages to bring a tear to my eye and remains, for me, one of the finest hours of the series. It’s certainly some of Gillian Anderson’s best work (in the year she deservedly won an Emmy) and this scene at the end of the episode, in which she deals with Penny’s death by resolving to come back to work as she has things to finish, is truly wonderful and contains one of the series’s most emotional and heartbreaking pieces of music. The fact this has yet to be released on the CDs surely means a 3rd volume is a necessity?!
7. Sweeping conspiracies in Gethsemane and emotional depths in Redux (series 4 & 5)
The music of the fourth series finale and indeed the start of series 5 has always stayed fresh in my head and for me is one of the most memorable sections of score written for the show. These episodes were quite epic in story, both on a myth-arc level, as Mulder searches to prove the ultimate proof of a governmental deception and on a personal level, as Scully’s cancer seems to finally be too strong for her. Mark’s music is very impressive, with grand, sweeping sections, moving seamlessly through to the more fragile moments. Although most of the music from Gethsemane and Redux has been captured on volume 2, I was sad that the beautiful short cue from Redux II, played as Mulder visits a sleeping Scully was left out. Surely this is another must-add piece for a third volume?!
8. Beware Eugene Victor Tooms! (series 1)
Tooms remains one of the most memorable and indeed terrifying characters of the series and the music written by Mark in his two episodes was fantastic. With brilliant use of plucked strings and synth, he truly conveys an eeriness that was essential to the effect the episodes were designed to have on the audience. The creepy music from the beginning of Tooms, when we are within the Druid Hill, stands out for me as being some of the most frightening music on film or television (captured on volume 2’s release). It’s a perfect example of how crucial music is to something – no matter how well written and acted, I think Squeeze and Tooms would not have had the same impact without Mark’s score.
9. Maybe there’s Hope in The Truth Part 2 (series 9)
It was a sad day when The X-Files came to an end and the final scene of the series was a lovely way to end the show. It left Mulder and Scully with hope for the future, one that saw them reunited and stronger together. Mark Snow’s delicate music, with echoes of the main theme within it was a lovely way to say goodbye to our favourite FBI agents and no doubt brought a tear to the eye of many fans when they first watched it.
10. At the crossroads (Fight The Future)
The release of the first feature film was an exciting event and Mark Snow created a grand score to accompany this big screen outing. I could have picked a number of pieces, but I’ve always loved the piece of score that accompanied the scene in which Mulder and Scully drive across country after the tanker trucks and instead of going left or right, drive straight ahead in to the barren wasteland.
11. The influence of the Navejo (Anasazi trilogy, series 2 and 3)
In what for me is the strongest mythology multi-part story of the whole series, there is the strong influence of the Indian tribe and their ancient traditions. Mark Snow did a great job of creating a score for the episodes that managed to capture this within the sound, giving the episodes a fresh and distinct sound. It’s such an intrinsic part of this story that you can see the moments in your mind as you listen to it.
12. Little Box of Sand (Emily, series 5)
The season five two-parter which revealed the existence of little Emily as Scully’s daughter is one of the most poignant stories. You had a sense that this could never have a happy ending. The score is delicate, haunting and filled with a tragic sadness and this piece from the soundtrack, brings this beautiful music together. It’s one of the best examples of Mark Snow creating an emotional depth in his music to enhance the power of the storylines on the show.
13. The End – Closure (The End, series 5)
As the show’s time in Vancouver drew to a close the creators gave us a finale that brought certain answers, while also setting the course for the show’s new path. It felt like an ending of sorts and the music was epic and with a sweeping grandeur to match the occasion. I especially love the score that accompanies the last few moments as Mulder finds his office and life’s work has literally gone up in smoke.
14. Cloning and the alien bounty hunter (Colony/End Game, series 2)
Colony and End Game marked a shift in the stakes of the mythology of the show, introducing the concept of clones, a deeper mystery surrounding Mulder’s sister and the frightening Alien Bounty Hunter. The music throughout is suitably atmospheric and eerie, giving the story an added other-worldly element, which was able to ratchet up the tension once Scully realises the person before her is not her partner at the cliffhanger end to the first episode. It was gripping television and Mark’s score certainly added to that.
15. and of course…..the now iconic theme!
Although this list is more focussed on music from the episodes themselves, it seemed wrong to not include the brilliant theme of the series. Looking back at the show now, I can’t imagine The X-Files without this haunting, otherworldly music cue, which set the tone for Mark Snow’s music for the entire duration of the series. It’s instantly recognisable and one of the best television themes created.
So those are my favourite pieces from the series to date. No one else would be able to capture the unique mood and atmosphere of the world of Mulder and Scully and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what musical score Mark Snow will create for the new episodes airing next January (I can’t believe how close we are now!). I’d love to hear which musical tracks you love and which you are hoping to see on any future compilation CD.
The official soundtrack releases for The X-Files were released by La La Records. The collection for the first film Fight The Future is still available here. Keep an eye on their website for news of any future releases (fingers crossed).